Midwest Saffron Alliance

About the Alliance

  • Founded by Kathleen Foland – having recently started using saffron in some of her products, she’s now dedicated to growing and showing others how to grow saffron in Missouri, and hopefully the Midwest
  • The goal is to organize and gather both the hobbyist gardener and
    small local farmers interested in growing saffron to form the alliance
  • The alliance collaborates about the process, a source for seeking advice, offering tips, showcasing our results, sharing recipes
  • In addition to the content provided on this site, a Facebook group page has been set up to facilitate such conversations and discussion exchange (@midwestsaffronalliance)
  • Kathleen is currently offering a discounted price on corms if ordering 100 or more. Check out details/to order as follows:
    100 Corms
    200 Corms

About Saffron

  • It’s a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus (commonly known as the “saffron crocus”)
  • The vivid crimson stigma and styles, called threads, are collected, and dried for use mainly as a seasoning
  • Has historically been used medicinally and in recipes for centuries
  • Also used as a coloring agent in food and fabrics
  • Rich in plant compounds that act as antioxidants, such as crocin, crocetin, safranal, and kaempferol.
  • It is a unique plant for its short growing season and the method of harvesting is done by hand over about a three-week period.
  • Is an extremely low maintenance crop *Can be grown in pots, raised beds (often in gardening tunnels), lined egg crates and in the ground
  • It is sowed with bulbs (corms) in early September
  • Harvested over a period of about 5 (12-14 hours of hand and back) days. (One of the reasons it is so expensive, including its small yield)

 How to Grow Saffron Crocus

Fall is the time to plant your Saffron Crocus bulbs, and it’s also the time when you can expect to see the first bloom on this perennial flower. For the best results with this plant, pick a site that gets plenty of direct sunlight and has a well-drained sandy, loamy soil. This easy-to-care-for plant doesn’t need a lot of attention or watering.

Not all crocuses produce this delicious spice. You can only harvest saffron from the saffron crocus (Crocus sativus). Because this crocus variety blooms in the fall, it’s often mistaken for the autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale). Both plants bloom in the fall, are grown from corms and have similar colors.

The Saffron Crocus prefers a full sun or very light shade location. Without at least four to six hours of direct sun during bloom time, you run the risk of being disappointed with the crop. This plant isn’t incredibly picky about soil type. It does need to be well-draining though, and best results are seen in a loamy, humus-rich type.

Plant the corms at a distance of 10cm and a depth of 10cm, preferably in elevated beds to increase the drainage of water. Planting depth varies, but the bulbs planted shallower form more new bulbs. Deep planted saffron is of better quaility. Provide good drainage. You can add compost, but do not overdo it.

The Sativus crocus variety goes dormant in the summer. You shouldn’t water them throughout this period. As you would expect from a plant that is typically grown in arid regions, they don’t need a lot of watering in general. Once established, they’re relatively drought-tolerant and too much moisture can damage or rot the bulbs. If you have a particularly dry spell, light watering will be required, but, other than this, they’ll cope will with just natural rainfall.  

Saffron Crocus thrive in a continental climate where there’s a definite difference in the seasons. They do best when summers are hot and dry. Too much humidity is a big problem for this plant. If they’re subject to very harsh, freezing winter conditions, the bulbs won’t grow as well, and this could result in poor flowering.

 Mulching around the plants with straw or compost can help to protect them if you expect the temperatures to drop significantly. Incorporating an organic fertilizer into the soil when you’re planting Saffron Crocus bulbs can be advantageous. After they’re established, you could treat them annually with fertilizer, but, with the right conditions, they probably won’t require any to be added.

Propagating Saffron Crocus is a sterile plant that can’t reproduce by seeds, it propagates through the multiplication of its bulbs (called corms). This means more corms will naturally develop underneath the soil. It’s a good idea to dig up the bulbs and separate the old corms from the new one every few years. Replanting after this will encourage healthy growth by preventing overcrowding and ensuring that the bulbs remain deep enough in the soil. Any replanting can be done in the summer during the dormancy period.    


Saffron blooms in its first season, about 40 days after planting and continues to bloom 30-40 days depending on the weather. The first year after planting, your Saffron Crocus won’t produce its best bloom. If you plan to harvest the stigmas, it’s best to wait until the second or third year. By then, the plant is more established, and the flowering will likely be optimal. Harvesting just after the flowers have opened on a dry morning is important. Each flower has three stigmas that can be carefully removed using a pair of tweezers before being dried out for use.

Saffron Crocus bulbs are easy to grow in containers. It can actually be handy if you experience particularly harsh winters. It allows you to move the containers to a warmer location when the frosts hit. Plant the bulbs in the pot in the fall, before any frosts arrive. The pot should be relatively deep and spacious. You want the bulbs to sit at least three inches apart. There should be at least five inches of soil on the base and a further three inches over the top of the bulbs. The pot can be buried into the ground at this point, but should always be lifted out to be stored indoors before the freezing temperatures arrive. Once indoors, no watering will be required during this dormancy period.  

Send an email to kathleen@midwestmermaidmuse.com if interested in attending the following Saffron workshop: